Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Home for Paula's Picks

A lot has been happening since April 15, 2013 when Connect2One was acquired by indiCo, a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores.  We've been working on a much needed overhaul of Connect2One's online presence.  Now, with the launch of a new mobile-friendly fully-featured website, we are now able to host Paula's Picks Blog directly from our home page.  So, I bid adieu to my blogspot home and hope you'll join me at

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Poppin' Window Display

Look close... Someone was pretty creative with the bubble wrap in this vibrant and unique window display, C2O's Robb Faust snapped this photo while shopping at a nearby outlet mall.  Just imagine the fun you could have with this project, almost like a giant pixel picture.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Free? Count Me In!

The freebie, the tchotchke, the langniappe.  No matter how you say it, FREE is always good.  At Aeropostale, you only have to try on the jeans, no purchase required.  Imagine what you could do in your store with a promotion like this and it doesn't even have to be clothes!  Show us your class list, show us your rec card, show us your...

PS:  If it wasn't such a silly idea of me fitting into a pair of Aeropostale jeans, I just might have taken them up on the offer!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Make a Folding Board Your Retail BFF

When it comes to crisp displays, there's nothing like a folding board to give your feature tables that "ready for retail" touch.  As a frequent traveler through airports across the country, I see terrific examples of displays like the one pictured here that shout out, "I'm fresh and new.  Buy me!"  A small investment in a folding board is your ticket to fantastic displays.  The only thing I'd change - a neon bag to match the shirts and loose the headless hat!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's in the App

We all know that neon pops but using a photo editing app can make your pictures even more outstanding. This Facebook feature from UCCS Bookstore brings out the sunglasses for this dramatic colorization. Or, should I say de-colorization.  Have some fun experimenting with Color Splash, Color Effects or other apps like these.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Sales

I love a sale.  It's in my DNA.  These mannequins tell the whole story at this trendy fashion retailer.  Most often you'll see new product featured in the front window but when the stock is dwindling down, these simple "SALE" t-shirts tell the entire story - get it while you can!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Independence Day for Consumers

Shoppers Unite! Support Your Independent Store. Independence Day has got me on my soapbox when I think about what chain stores are doing to our retail landscape. On one hand, I call it the homogenization of product choice. Many times manufacturers won't even gear up production on an item unless it's picked up by one of the big box players. These retailers wield so much power that some products never see the light of day.

And don't even get me started on prices. Just because it's a chain store, doesn't mean that prices are fair. Last month, I had the opportunity to stop in a lease-operated college store in a small town. The basic 3x5 white index card pack which normally retails at 99¢ was priced at $1.68. Talk about gouging! I was appalled and offended as should be the campus that gave up operating their own store.

Yes, independent retail has its challenges against the chains but a world without independents looking out for the customer jeopardizes our retail freedom. Make it a point to shop your independent retailer this month to celebrate and support our retail freedom.

Monday, July 1, 2013

American Icons on Display

A big week for fireworks, picnics and all-American fun.  Even Hello Kitty is ready for the sparklers in this red, white and blue display. Note how the floor decal draws attention to the display and the banner balances the mannequin form.  Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Places We'll Go

Summer is officially upon us and a great time for getting out and about on your bike.  Take some inspiration from this department store display, complete with bicycle and photos of summer vacation spots.  Partner with a local bike shop or dust off that one sitting in the garage or head to your local Goodwill Store.  You could even spray paint the bike in school colors and the pictures could be posted on a backdrop in your store window.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Something to Cheer About!

I saw this signage at the mall last week and couldn't help but think how cool this would be during football or basketball season for college stores.  It reminded me of a cheerleader's megaphone.  I would probably change it up from "Saturday Steals" to "GAME DAY DEALS".  Simply insert a new promotion in the circle every week and you're done!

Not a team sport campus?  Try using it for your slowest traffic day to draw the customers in.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Riding the Tech Trend

One of the benefits of working in the college bookstore market all these years is riding the tech trends of the day. I remember when the Commodore 64 came out in 1982. My bookstore director decided that, since I was the buyer for calculators, and the C64 was just a big calculator, that I would be buying them. If you want to follow down that memory lane, read the book "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline. It's a story steeped in the tech and pop culture of the late 70s and early 80s.

By the way, following the tech trend, I did read the book on my iPad and downloaded it from my public library. Count me in the game!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

You Can't Afford to NOT Give it Away

I applaud the University of Alabama Supply Store for going where few college stores will go - the realm of big online companies - FREE SHIPPING. Yes, textbooks are low margin and shipping cuts into that.  But, offset free shipping costs with the purchases you will miss out on if the customer goes elsewhere and that low margin becomes no margin whatsoever.  And, they've done it so cleverly...  A cardboard box backdrop and the smirky "don't like leaving your apartment" comment.  Well done! 

University of Alabama Supply Store Facebook cover image through August 3.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The LARGEST selection of USED Books Ever! Available today!

I subscribe to a number of email broadcasts from college bookstores and this one from CSULB Bookstore at Cal State Long Beach caught my eye.  On seeing stacks and stacks of incoming books, it's an impressive testament to the fact that independent college bookstores really do work hard to have every book, for every class, at great prices (used or rental) and available NOW. 

My favorite part of the ad (click the link for a larger view) is the tag line:  Your Campus, Your Bookstore, Your Choice.  No mystery sellers, no shipments from multiple sellers, no added delivery costs, no questionable condition.  If your "choice" is peace of mind and ease of shopping, your independent college store is the easy A, no-brainer choice.

FW: The LARGEST selection of USED Books Ever!! Available today!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

MonkeyTee, MonkeyDo Display

I actually don't mind my time spent in airports.  Who knew you could find so much inspiration browsing airport gift shops!  This display I found particularly interesting, even though I was sorely tempted to tuck in all those errant price tags.  While we've seen the pre-requisite tee & hat combinations, this shop cleverly combines tees (for mom, dad, sis, cousin) with cute plush (for lil' ones).  This would be so easy to implement in your college store.  It might take a little juggling in your POS ring but the customers will love the $5.98 savings from the bundle.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

From Inside the MBA@UNC Blog: Maximizing Millennials: The Who, How, and Why of Managing Gen Y

No, you're not having a senior moment; the infographic below is reaaalllly small.  Now, if I were Gen Y, I could probably figure out how to resize it to fit this window.  However, the information in this fascinating graphic and article from the Inside the MBA@UNC Blog should be on the "everyone over 40" required reading list so follow the link below.

Maximizing Millennials: The Who, How, and Why of Managing Gen Y: Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are entering the workplace in record numbers. They are idealistic, diverse, digitally-enabled, social and perhaps most importantly, ambitious. While these are all traits that can make a positive impact on your organization, it is a tall task to retain and motivate millennials for a variety of reasons.  Their attitudes toward work and careers differ from previous generations...(continue reading at )

Via MBA@UNC Online Business Degree & The YEC

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

JCP Experiment with Shopper Psychology

I'm always intrigued by consumer psychology.  Somehow, JC Penney underestimated how deeply engrained are consumer behavioural patterns.  Here are some points from two recent articles which appeared on Ad Age:

JC Penney's Mistake? Assuming the Consumer Is Rational

...a rational person would rather buy a $7 T-shirt for $7 than that very same T-shirt, typically listed at $12.99, marked down to $7.99 (almost a dollar more that the new price).

The cognitive bias at play in the Penney pricing initiative is an "anchoring effect," meaning that consumers are typically heavily influenced by a specific piece of information, which all other information is evaluated against. Suggested retail prices are the most common anchors... While the $12.99 original price tag for the T-shirt might have been an inflated price, it still creates a subconscious anchor. While the consumer's rational side may know that it's a bogus price, the irrational side is excited that it can get the T-shirt for a bargain at $7.99. The discount creates the yearning to make the purchase. For some, it even gives them a slight feeling of euphoria, or a mini rush.

JC Penney Re-thinks Its Terminology, Embraces 'Sales' Again

Speaking at the Piper Jaffray Consumer Conference in New York, JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson told investors the company would be moving away from the term "month-long value" in favor of the simpler "sale." It's the latest marketing adjustment since the retailer reported a dismal first quarter.

"No one really understood [month-long value]. What we intend to do is a sale; we run 12 a year," Mr. Johnson said. "That's a messaging change within our vision for how we want to compete. ... The back half will be better, the customer will understand, and there will be a lot of purchasing."

Even major retailers can make missteps in understanding their customers. If you're like me you probably tell everyone about the great deal you snagged on a shopping expedition.  Why?  It's the thrill of the deal and JCP underestimated how important that is to most shoppers.  Keep this in mind when preparing price strategies for you store.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Under the Influence of Paint Chips

Who hasn't handled a paint chip from the hardware store?  From HGTV to window displays to notebooks, paint chips take on new life with their design aesthetic.   Paint Chip spiral notebooks from Top Flight (introduced at CAMEX).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One of these, one of these, and one of these...

We're taught in Retail 101 about the add-on sale but savvy retailers have figured out how to have promotions that accomplish that add-on sale as part of the deal.  Here are a couple of mall retailers who get it right.

The more you buy, the more you save!

Tanks: Buy One Get One 50% OFF
Tees: Buy One Get One $5
Shorts: Buy One Get One $10

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's MINE!

Word graphics have been hot in the college market and I particularly like this new imprint from Roaring Spring Paper Products. 

I love the sentiment.  Add a pop of foil for an eye-catching focus on MINE! 

Available for full-size notebooks or planners.   Contact your ICS rep for more details or call Roaring Spring at 800-441-1653.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Layover Inspiration

Where has the time gone?  Well, I spend a lot of times in airports and even there I can find inspiration for visual merchandising.  Check out these great displays that would work in any college store.  What's especially noteworthy about these displays is the simplicity of the assortment. A mug, hat and tee.  Tees and bling.  Less is more when creating impact selling displays.

Colors really pop in this underlit display at the Minneapolis Airport.

Great price point signage for these bright tees at the Madison, Wisconsin airport.  Bling key chains and lanyards and the colorful "Ink'd SkullCandy" earbuds on the adjacent rack complete the color story.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Weather Report: Chilly Toes Ahead

I am on a mission to save our mannequins!  Until every mannequin has shoes to wear, I will not rest.  Call me the Tom's of the mannequin world or just call me a bit compulsive on the issue. 

At Aeropostale (above), their mannequins are set for the season with Ugg style boots, jimmers, layers of tees, sweats and even hats in hand.  At American Eagle (below), their mannequins don't even have feet, but if a body were to slip into the clothes, the outfit would be complete from accessorized scarf, belt, shoulder bag and on down to suede clogs.

The bigger issue is how often times we overlook the small details.  The finishing touches do make a difference.  Sure, you don't sell shoes, but barefoot mannequins just lack class.  For those of you reading this who are Connect2One members, email me the sorry plight (and pictures) of your shoeless mannequins.  I'll pick the best story and send a pair of shoes to the rescue.  Email: by November 30, 2011.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Fruitful and Multiply

That's a lesson I learned at the National Association of Convenience Stores convention (or as I call it, the other NACS) a couple of weeks ago.  What am I talking about?  Major brands have learned that the name alone will take customers to new products.  Witness my beloved PEEPS that now appear on shelves year-round (not just at Easter), are dipped in chocolate, coated in chocolate, dyed in rainbow hues, morphed into pumpkins, snowmen and hearts, turned into marshmallow PEEP suckers (above) and, coming soon, PEEP snack bars made with crispy rice!

Can you think of how many versions of M&M's have appreared on your local candy shelf?  We all have our favorites - I'm staring at a bag of peanut M&M's that are calling my name - and you can be sure that I'll try the new mint dark chocolate M&M's when the hit the shelves next year.

Jelly Belly goes from the simple bean to soda pop, frozen "slushy" drinks, soft-serve yogurt, even ice cream.  And more flavors than I can imagine!

In the meantime, what about your business do you do really, really well?  How can you multiply that effect in your customers' eyes?  Food for thought.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are you telling your customers the glass is half empty?

I came across an article today that was so profound, I had to share it.  To recap the message, the article poses the question of negativity behind the simple phrase "Out of Stock".  Did your mouth just make a frowny face reading those words?  And, when applied to your own store, what impression does the customer have about you?  Not, the original manufacture, what about you?

By simple wordsmithing the negativity can be pushed aside.  Restating the issue as "Shipping Nov. 15" or "Pre-order Now" can shift the disappointment to anticipation.  You've given the customer time expectations.  You could even offer a substitute at a reduced price or a pre-order service with an additional bonus for those who wait. 

It's all in how you phrase it.  Now that this article has opened my eyes, I can't wait to find more examples of how we can communicate that the glass is really half full and the drink is delicious!

Read the complete article at:

Reframe a supply problem to build anticipation at the The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Sale by any other name is still a SALE!

SALE! A universal concept, delightfully signed at retailer Mango in the Las Vegas Fashion Show Mall.